WOMEN’S HEALTH & DIV­ING

Scuba Diver Australasia - - Research, Education & Medicine -

When it comes to fit­ness for div­ing, the rec­om­men­da­tions for male and fe­male divers are largely the same: good ex­er­cise tol­er­ance, a healthy weight and aware­ness of pos­si­ble con­cerns re­lated to med­i­cal con­di­tions and med­i­ca­tions. Re­gard­less of sex, all divers should use ap­pro­pri­ate ther­mal pro­tec­tion, re­main hydrated, un­der­stand the div­ing en­vi­ron­ment and dive con­ser­va­tively.

Men and women, how­ever, are phys­i­cally and phys­i­o­log­i­cally dif­fer­ent. With women rep­re­sent­ing about a third of the recre­ational div­ing pop­u­la­tion – in 2013 the Pro­fes­sional As­so­ci­a­tion of Div­ing In­struc­tors (PADI) re­ported its pop­u­la­tion of cer­ti­fied divers as 66 per­cent male and 34 per­cent fe­male, and males rep­re­sent 64 per­cent of in­sured DAN mem­bers1 – it is im­por­tant to con­sider spe­cific health con­cerns that fe­male divers face.

THERMOREGULATION

For both men and women, body tem­per­a­ture is cen­trally con­trolled in the hy­po­thal­a­mus and is af­fected by fac­tors such as body fat con­tent, fat dis­tri­bu­tion and body sur­face-area-tomass ra­tio. Hor­monal dif­fer­ences may af­fect thermoregulation, but body com­po­si­tion and size typ­i­cally drive re­sponses to cold ex­po­sure. To­tal heat loss may be greater in women be­cause they gen­er­ally have higher sur­face-area-to­vol­ume ra­tios and lower mus­cle mass com­pared with men (greater mus­cle mass is associated with greater meta­bolic heat pro­duc­tion).

Some re­search sug­gests that women’s body tem­per­a­ture falls more rapidly dur­ing im­mer­sion in cold wa­ter while at rest. The bot­tom line is that ev­ery diver should wear a suit that fits well and keeps him or her warm – ex­po­sure pro­tec­tion helps com­pen­sate for any heat loss due to hor­monal or an­thro­po­met­ric dif­fer­ences.

MEN­STRU­A­TION

No ev­i­dence sug­gests that women who dive while men­stru­at­ing are ha­rassed or bit­ten by sharks more of­ten. How­ever, anx­i­ety, dizzi­ness,

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